Editorial: End Child Labor, Form Digger Co-ops in Sierra Leone

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RAPAPORT… Why are we bending over backwards to justify how we go about earning our livelihood in the diamond business?

What have we done wrong?

I certainly did not see that the diamond community, as such, did anything wrong in the film Blood Diamond. I did not see any diamond dealers shooting, killing, looting to get their hands on diamonds.

I did not see any diamond dealers buying diamonds for dollars from rebel forces, so they could buy arms and ammunition.

So, what did I see?

I saw a kind of James Bond in Africa dodging bullets, anti-tank rockets, and explosions driving in and out of inescapable situations without a scratch, in search of a big stone that an African farmer claimed was a diamond.

I was a diamond buyer in Africa for 10 years of which 2 years were spent in Sierra Leone. If every time I followed up a diamond that an African told me he had found, I would have spent my time chasing rainbows. This film is pure Hollywood. It certainly did not address the very big issues in Sierra Leone and is certainly not a slur on the diamond trade.

I think the majority of my fellow Europeans will think likewise. Don’t get me wrong: There are issues that need to be addressed. The main issue here is the cause, as Salomon Vandy in the film rightly says, “How can my people do this to each other?”

Sierra Leone’s people are not violent by birth, nor are they brought up to be violent towards one another. On the contrary, I worked and lived among them and always found them to be rather shy, but with a friendly manner.

The easy way is to send the money – but send money to do what? We should start by not trying to change their lives to suit our way of life. This is Africa my friends. You want to help them? Then get their government to disallow child labor panning for diamonds. Give efficient utensils and tools for the men to pan diamonds, and get the diggers to form a cooperative so they pool all the diamonds and sell in bulk to a bonafide buyer.

Now you are helping the Africans in the African way!

We must get to the cause of such brutality, not the after effect. The cause lies with the United Nations and people power.

We need to prevent weak governments from such atrocities not have to cure them. Therefore I say we diamond dealers are not guilty and we are not the cause.

If our industry is perceived as being tainted, look no further than the example of the gold markets.

Where do we stop? Don’t buy chocolates because the beans are picked by underpaid and exploited children…how about coffee, timber I can go on and on…come on diamond people lets get realistic we do not deal in blood diamonds, only in bloody good diamonds.

Barend Mok
B Mok & Sons

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